Weekly Clinical Service Dose: Insomnia: Your 3 Worst Ways and 3 Best Ways to Fall Asleep
Have trouble falling asleep? Wake up at 3 a.m. for no reason?
Insomnia can rob you of energy the next day, fog your thinking and put you in harm’s way on the road.
If you’re relying on common crutches for sleeplessness, they won’t help your cause.
Here, are some great and not so great remedies for insomnia:
The 3 worst ways to get to sleep
Have a nightcap before bed
- Do you unwind with a glass of wine or a scotch and soda before bed? Literature shows that alcohol is the most abused drug for insomniacs. It’s the single worst remedy you can use. Drinking alcohol may make you feel drowsy. But as it wears off, it fragments the natural stages of sleep. Despite alcohol’s quickly sedating effect, when it’s metabolized a few hours later, it causes recurrent awakenings. Your deepest stage of sleep — REM (rapid eye movement) — is suppressed. Drinking alcohol near bedtime may also worsen snoring and sleep apnea
Bring electronics to bed with you
- Your bed is not the right place for smartphones, tablets or laptops. Lying in bed and ‘trying to sleep’ by playing games, checking your email, reviewing bank statements or paying bills online will backfire on you. The “blue” light from electronic devices prevents the release of melatonin from the brain’s pineal gland, preventing sleepiness. Adolescents may be even more vulnerable to this effect than adults.
Rely on antihistamines
- Antihistamines like diphenhydramine (Benadryl®) sure make you drowsy. But they’re not a long-term solution for insomnia. Antihistamines may help you get to sleep. But they accumulate in the brain over time, causing grogginess and even cognitive impairment the next day.
The 3 best ways to get to sleep
- Get out of bed. Get up, go to another room, and read a little, take a bath or try some other relaxing activity. That way, you won’t reinforce the unhappy habit of lying awake all night. Lying awake in bed is one of the least productive thing people with insomnia can do. It leads to a self-perpetuating cycle of chronic insomnia.
- Reset your body clock. Start getting to bed and waking up about the same time every day — even on the weekend and your days off. A consistent schedule can help prevent ‘social jet lag’ from following a different sleep schedule on weekends. Just as a cross-country flight can disrupt circadian rhythms as you abruptly cross time zones, social jet lag will upset your body’s biological clock. People often don’t realize that maintaining a consistent sleep-wake schedule works.
- Write your ‘to do’ list early. To keep “should do” off your mind when you’re trying to sleep, write your to-do list early in the evening. Later, when the house is quiet, unwind on the couch with a calming book under light from a low-wattage bulb. Sip on some soothing peppermint tea.
Try these suggestions to free yourself from the insomnia trap.
A new sleep routine may make all the difference for you at night and the next day.
Have a question? Contact us at AskANurse@DirectPathHealth.com